When Ryan and Tracy Flanagan purchased a nearly 100-year-old Tudor-style home in Maplewood, they knew the kitchen wouldn't make it for even another five. "The floor tiles were cracked, the cabinets were chipped, and it was this drab yellowish-beige color," Ryan recalls. There was also asbestos in the walls, a fact they didn't realize until after demolition had begun.
Though their motivation for embarking on a proper refurbishment was to maximize the ease and convenience of modern life, there was also a visual component. "The rest of the house feels very true to the Tudor style," says designer Carly Gockeler of KraftMaster Renovations, in Chatham. "The kitchen just wasn't up to the standard of the rest of the home."
"We wanted to preserve that English country house kind of feel to make the kitchen look like it belonged there with the rest of the rooms," adds Tracy.
Guided by that desire—and Tracy's love of British kitchen designers DeVol—Gockeler began to research the style and plot out changes. Here's how she delivered that high-end, old-world style on a real-world budget.
Planning the Design
The Flanagans were lucky to have an existing wall of windows in their kitchen, so the rest of the design was geared toward making the most of them. Carly tweaked the L-shaped walls opposite them to create more cooking space and achieve a better flow. Originally, a powder room opened into the kitchen. She moved that entrance outside the kitchen and closed up the wall where the door had been, creating an ideal backdrop for the Flanagans dream Aga Elise range. (More on that in a minute.)
For the kitchen cabinets, Carly used a base of contemporary inset StarMark closed storage and open shelves. To give them the old-world feel Tracy wanted, she added brass bin pulls and shelf brackets, a DeVol hanging rail (a relatively affordable piece from the company Tracy loves), a gooseneck bridge faucet, and a farmhouse-style marble sink. A custom storage nook for cutting boards also helps give the space a bespoke—and personal—feel.
Pro Tip: The right hardware and accessories can give stock cabinets a bespoke feel for much less expense.
"We added that custom cubby to show some soft materials—it's practical, but it gives the pantry wall some character," Carly says.
Because the windows let in so much sun, they could paint the cabinets, which are topped with black granite countertops, a dark blueberry hue without looking too severe. A lustrous porcelain tile backsplash helps ensure the mood says light and bright.
"Tudors typically can be very dark on the inside," says Ryan. "We realized we could go for something moodier because there was so much light."
For the kitchen flooring, Carly went for slate—it's a budget-friendly option compared with terra cotta and marble.
The finishing touches are minimalist copper pendant lamps from Etsy. They feel more like jewelry than hardware but still have a vintage feel.
Choosing the Appliances
It all started with the range. Tracy and Ryan didn't originally plan their kitchen with this 48-inch Aga cooker in mind. They had laid the kitchen plan out around a much smaller 36-inch range that would bring a pop of bright color to the space. But when they say a big, old-fashioned cast-iron range in a friend's New York City loft, they fell in love and had to have one of their own.
They wanted the look of their friends' range but hoped to find something less heavy and more energy efficient. A little research turned up the Aga Elise line, which checked all their boxes—and, lo and behind, Designer Appliances had a floor model available. The only catch? It was 48 inches wide, a whole foot bigger than the space they'd allotted.
"Can you make a 48-inch fit?" Ryan asked Carly on a call soon after. Luckily, she could, with a little rearranging. Moving the entrance to the powder room had given them enough extra space to play with.
Another early hiccup: The wider range also meant they needed a bigger, stronger range hood for ventilation. To mount it properly, they had to shore up the supports in the kitchen ceiling—an extra construction step they hadn't anticipated.
Pro Tip: Deciding on your appliances before you lay out your cabinet plan can save you time, money, and hassle. To learn more, see our in-depth guide to appliance sizes.
To help maintain the room's traditional look, they chose a Miele dishwasher. It's a panel ready dishwasher, so it blends into the other cabinetry; there's no shiny metal finish or digital control panel to interrupt the room's quiet.
In fact, the only stainless steel appliance in their home, a Bosch French door refrigerator, is tucked away in a less visible corner of the kitchen to maintain the aesthetic.
Life During the Remodel
The Flanagan family couldn't be in their home during the part of the renovation when the asbestos remediation was happening. That work set the project back a week and meant they had to stay in a hotel for two weeks.
Pro Tip: Older homes often contain asbestos—something you might not learn about until demolition begins. Have a backup plan in case you need to vacate your home while it's being remediated.
What the Family Loves Most
Now, Tracy and Ryan's patinated copper pots dangle from that DeVol rail, at the ready to cook dinner on their beloved Aga range.
And it has more than delivered on their investment. In fact, they found that it eliminated the demand for most countertop appliances.
"Everything heats up so fast, so there's really no need for a microwave, and we have the broiler drawer so we don't have any use for a toaster," Tracy says. Adds Ryan, "There isn't a digital display in the room."
Pro Tip: A range with a small second oven or boiler drawer can eliminate the need for a countertop toaster.
The lack of digital reminders makes it easier for the Flanagans to keep the focus on their family, whether they're boiling up pasta and sauces for weeknight dinners with their two children or entertaining friends and relatives during their annual cioppino dinners. "That event alone makes this kitchen worthwhile," says Ryan.
It's fitting for a house that's built for entertaining. "We have this old speakeasy from the 1940s in our basement. We'll throw dinner parties, and then 'retire to the pub,' as we say," adds Tracy.
Though they're currently on the hunt for an antique British baker's table to complete the scene, the family has found plenty of ways to make togetherness a priority. "The range is so convenient," says Tracy. "There are multiple ovens, so one of us can be baking with the kids or prepping something while the other gets dinner ready."
Pair that sense of intimacy with the combination of thoughtful details, and there's no doubt that this kitchen will stand the test of time.
Ryan and Tracy's Advice to Remodelers
"What rings true for the renovation more than anything else was that old saying...What is that old saying? 'An ounce of planning saves a something?'" says Tracy with a laugh. Her number-one tip for people getting ready to start a project of their own: "Buy your appliances early. We scoffed at the notion of buying appliances so early in the process, but we learned that things take a very long time to arrive. Choosing our appliances several months before the first hammer swing really saved us. If we had left it to the last minute, we would have had to compromise on quality just to have something there physically in the space."